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James Caan broke Godfather co-star’s ribs during fight scene

The Godfather's not known for its impressive stunt work, which may explain how James Caan managed to injure his co-star shooting the drama movie's big fight.

James Caan as Sonny Corleone

The Godfather’s one of the best movies ever made, but it’s not exactly known for its big stunts. The biggest fight in the whole drama movie probably comes when James Caan’s character, the violent and impulsive Sonny Corleone, learns that his brother-in-law Carlo is beating his wife.


Unhappy with how Carlo is treating his sister Sonny introduces Carlo’s head to the lid of a trashcan, leaving the poor guy unconscious in the street. It turns out, though, that Caan accidentally forced poor Gianni Russo, who played Carlo, to use some unintentional method acting as he broke Russo’s ribs when they shot the fight.

During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Russo claimed that he and Caan didn’t get on and that when the fight scene began, the Misery actor got a bit too enthusiastic with his improvisation. “Sonny and I had a problem all through the movie, on and off the set,” Russo said, adding he “pissed [Caan] off” before the cameras rolled with his familiarity with the people in the neighbourhood.

“We choreographed that scene for about a day and a half,” he continued. “Jimmy got a little aggressive, I would say, and he improvised a few things like that little billy club he threw at me when I came off the stoop. He hit me right in the head with that, and then he throws me over the railing, and he’s biting my hands… when I crawl out, he literally lifted me up with his kick… none of that was supposed to happen.”

Russo claims that the fight left him with two broken ribs and a chipped elbow. So why didn’t Russo complain? Well, this was his first movie, and he didn’t want to complain.

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For his part Caan, who passed away in the Summer of 2022, always maintained that he fought with a stunt double and never the real Russo. Even after Caan passed away, there was no love lost between Russo and Caan.

“He discredits me even doing the scene,” Russo told the New York Post. “Unfortunately, we’re talking about a guy that’s dead, and to his dying day, that’s his story. He took it to his grave, as we would say.”

If you love The Godfather, check out our list of the best thriller movies, or if you’re looking for something a little different, we have a list of the best comedy series.